Launching a successful startup is hard work.
In fact, 50% of small businesses fail in the first four years, so there’s no guarantee that all that hard work will pay off, even if you manage to start turning a profit relatively quickly.
That’s why the name of the game for startups is ensuring consistent growth.
In fact, if you’re like most startup owners, you’re probably always looking for ways to skyrocket your company and achieve a rapid growth that provides more security or allows you to sell your website at a huge profit.
The problem is, trying to scale comes with its own risks, and if you make the wrong decisions, it could end up costing you the entire business, even if it was showing promising results.
That’s why, to help you scale your early-stage startup more effectively, here are a few tips that will surely come in handy.
Know If It’s the Right Time to Scale
One thing that separates the truly successful startups from those that overstretch themselves and start losing the appeal to their customers is knowing when’s a good time to scale in the first place.
Although rapid growth is the dream of any startup founder, and we all know the overnight success stories that launched some of the biggest tech companies we know today, for every success, there are hundreds of failures that didn’t time their scaling efforts and spread themselves too thin in the process.
In fact, a hard truth that a lot of startup owners need to acknowledge is that some startups are just not very scalable in the first place.
Whether it’s because of a specific niche with a limited audience, or that it just doesn’t have the possibility for rapid growth at the moment, sometimes the best approach is to allow for slower, organic growth.
But at the same time, it’s important to know the signs when the best move forward is to scale quickly, as you don’t want to miss a unique opportunity to expand and carve out a much larger share of the marketplace.
Keep Your Team Nimble
Many startups are able to achieve success early because they have a small and motivated team that can quickly adjust to a changing environment and get a lot done in a short amount of time.
Sure, a smaller team of four or five people has their limits in terms of how much they can handle, but that doesn’t mean that increasing the team’s size always leads to a productivity increase – a bigger team requires much more efficient processes for sharing information and managing workflow, and early-stage startups don’t always have the knowledge how to manage all these processes efficiently.
Sometimes a bigger team may end up getting less done simply because meetings and coordinating efforts will take a much bigger part of the available time. That’s why, in some cases, the best way forward for startups looking to scale is to opt for a smaller team and add team members gradually and on a per-need basis only.
You also need to consider the time it will take to onboard new staff members and get them familiar with how things work and the strengths of the team members.
Even if additional team members will make it easier in the long run, if you don’t time the onboarding right you may end up with employees who aren’t yet ready to perform while simultaneously having to deal with the overstretching of your resources that rapid scaling can cause.
For instance, sometimes hiring an outsourced CFO or getting Excel consulting to train your current team may prove a much more efficient decision, which will not only cost less but will also be less disruptive to the workflow.
Streamline Everything You Can
As we already discussed, most early-stage startups have smaller teams that share a significant workload between just a few people.
And while that certainly has many benefits in terms of operational efficiency, it also means that each team member will likely be overstretched and have to handle multiple responsibilities on a daily basis.
Therefore, if you don’t want your startup to reach its output ceiling before you can achieve significant scaling and growth, it’s imperative that you free up your employee time by taking away as much of the non-essential tasks as possible.
Basically, that means that anything that doesn’t require creative input or unique specialization that only a staff member can do should be either automated or outsourced to save the most precious resource of young startups: time of key team members.
Luckily, there are plenty of solutions available that can make the process much easier.
In the most basic form, automation should at least include your billing and payroll, as otherwise, labor-intensive tasks will take away a lot of time that could be otherwise spent on much more productive activities.
You can also make onboarding and education of both team members and customers easier by setting up a centralized system for tutorials and FAQs, as well as a knowledge base that can be used as a reference without the need for manual supervision.
And those tasks that cannot be automated can usually be outsourced at a very affordable price.
Today, it’s possible to automate or outsource almost anything, with tasks ranging from helping to find which traffic source generates the most revenue or to monitor competitors, to using the right dimensions for Instagram stories or discovering actionable email marketing statistics that you can use to improve your conversions.
If you take steps to free up your team from time-consuming tasks that they don’t need to be doing, you’ll allow them to focus on efforts that directly impact growing your startup, which will allow you to keep your team smaller for longer and achieve growth quicker.
Broaden Your Marketing Efforts
No matter how well you operate your business and how many processes you’re able to streamline, attracting new leads will always be the underlying driving force behind all of your scaling efforts.
Sure, referrals and word-of-mouth are important and always contribute to growth, but they have a clear limit to their potential that directly correlates with your current user base.
Therefore, to maximize growth, you must have a comprehensive marketing strategy and make sure that you’re getting in front of your target audience wherever they like to hang out.
But what marketing approaches should you focus on for best results?
Well, the quickest way to reach new prospects is to use paid advertising on social media and the search engines. With a big enough budget, you can start getting leads as soon as today and grow your startup at a rapid pace, but for that to happen, you need to have a strong message and a pitch that is proven to convert well, because otherwise, you probably won’t be able to keep the campaign profitable.
Another approach that many startups use to increase their visibility is Search Engine Optimization. While it does take more time to implement, combining SEO and content marketing to get an influx of organic traffic through SERPs and guest posting opportunities can be a great way to not only scale your business but also grow your authority status in the industry.
Finally, one of the most promising ways to generate leads and gain access to a broader audience is to use influencer marketing. By leveraging the authority and following of prominent social media figures in your field, you can instantly gain credibility and visibility in your niche and start luring away users from the competition.
One reason why many early-stage startups are afraid to use influencer marketing is the potential costs – getting a relevant A-list influencer with millions of followers to promote your products or services can cost a hefty sum, which is not something many startups can afford.
However, that’s not the only way you can use influencer marketing to your advantage.
Instead of going after the big players in your niche, you could target micro-influencers that have anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of followers.
Even though they have a smaller following, the fans are usually much more engaged and responsive, so if you can develop an appealing and relevant message, you could see terrific results, while not having to spend nearly as much, as smaller influencers are more eager to work with startups and are likely to have a lower asking price.
A great way to persuade influencers is to use affiliate marketing software to set up a customized affiliate program that automatically rewards the influencer based on the number of sales that he is able to generate.